Every month New York City holds a crime statistics meeting to discuss the occurrence and rates of crime it has experienced. In a recent year-end review of 2018, reporting of rape incidents had increased by 22 percent over the prior year. The Police Department and Mayor de Blasio are encouraged by this statistic.
Why is this good news?
In 2018, 1,795 rapes were reported. Of these, 401 involved incidents that happened in prior years. By contrast, in 2017, only 250 reports of rape from prior years were reported. The increase in reporting of prior-year rapes is a sign that victims are coming forward in unprecedented numbers.
Reasons Victims are Reluctant to Come Forward
A series of factors play into whether or not a victim reports a rape. The historic approach to rape has been one of blaming and shaming victims. There is an undertone of bias against the victim, as if they were somehow responsible for the crime.
Victims are often scrutinized for their conduct. They are asked how they dressed, whether they were out late at night, if they were drinking, and if they were socializing with unfamiliar people. These facts are sometimes used to challenge allegations of rape in criminal prosecutions. Defense strategies frequently involve blaming rape victims for the crimes of their perpetrators.
The suspicion of victims worsens if they knew the perpetrator. The undertone here is that sex was consensual, and the victim is somehow trying to unfairly hurt the perpetrator.
Much of these undertones of suspicion go unspoken. However, scrutiny of victims and the associated shame and blame mentality have had a chilling effect that served to discourage victims from reporting being raped.
Impact of the #Metoo Movement
The #Metoo movement empowers sex crime victims to speak out against the sexual violence they have suffered. Women (and men) are coming forward in record numbers to describe the sexual assaults they have experienced.
Many of the sex crimes being reported are outside the statute of limitations, and so the victims are barred from prosecuting their attackers. The movement is not about law enforcement, however. It is about accountability. Sex crime victims have asserted that they will no longer be intimidated into silence.
Special Crimes Victims Division Issues
The crime of rape has historically been treated differently than other violent crimes. In New York City, the Special Victims Division (Division) investigates sex crimes, as well as crimes against children and the elderly. A recent inspector general report found that the Division had been understaffed, and that acquaintance and domestic rape in particular were given a low priority.
In response to that finding, the city has both increased staff at the Division and established a public outreach effort to encourage victims to come forward.
In the crime statistics briefing, officials reported that hundreds of reports of rape were made by victims walking into their local precinct and talking to an officer on duty. According to the Chief of Crime Control Strategies, this is a sign that the Police Department is building trust in the community.
If victims believe they will be treated with fairness and respect, then they will continue to come forward and report sex crimes.
Middletown Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Help Victims of Sexual Assaults
Rape and other sex crimes are illegal, and victims should not be blamed or discouraged from reporting these crimes. Our firm can work with you to ensure justice is served.
Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.